Interesting facts on the history of McLaren Vale
This page is for educational interest for all members and visitors to enjoy. Also to celebrate the heritage of our beautiful township and surrounding district and also to acknowledge the people who made this possible through their great endeavor, hard work and hardships they endured.
Two small villages – Gloucester and Bellevue – were established here in the 1840’s by migrants from Great Britain. A large tree became the unofficial boundary between the two villages and became known as the Halfway Tree. This tree was situated on the premises of the combined shop/residence which was owned at various times by the well-known Nicholls and Hurn families. These premises are situated on Main Road (No. 184) opposite Gemmel Tassie Reserve and is currently occupied by the ‘Willunga Basin Water Company’.
In 1923 buildings from these villages merged, adopting the name of the valley (McLaren Vale).
Until the 1920s McLaren Vale was applied to the region more than to the particular town and even today there is a feeling that the surrounding vineyards are really McLaren Vale vineyards even if they are some kilometres outside the town.
This is an area which has always been about grape growing. As early as 1850 the historic Hardy and Seaview wineries were in operation. It is widely accepted that Thomas Hardy’s purchase of the Tintara vineyard in 1853 is the symbolic beginning of the town.
Many buildings from the early days can still be found in and around the area. Early life was founded on farming with and emphasis on cereal crops. Evidence of the prosperity in the era can be found in McLaren Vale today. McLaren Vale is now a busy town which makes an ideal base when exploring the McLaren Vale Wine Region and other attractions in the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Daringa – (at Oxenberry Farm Winery)
McLaren Vale has its roots from the first built house known as Daringa (situated at Oxenberry Farm Winery); it was here in 1840 in this picturesque green lush valley where Devonshire farmers William Colton and Charles Hewett set up with their respective families to start new lives in Australia. Daringa is the aboriginal name for swampy surrounds. William Colton landed in Adelaide from England late in 1839 and soon made the trek to the Southern Vales and chose a location near a freshwater spring and built their homes on adjoining parcels of land that had only been surveyed by John McLaren the year before.
Daringa is currently in the process of being renovated and is situated on Kangarilla Road where Oxenberry Farm winery is now.
Oxenberry Farm was originally situated a little further down Kangarilla Road from the current winery. Little trace can be found of the original Oxenberry Farm building but can be depicted by some large fig trees that grew in the garden.
Early settlers camped near ‘Blackfellow’s Well’, which was on Oxenberry Farm, and for many long years the only source of water for the settlers. Because Blackfellow’s Well was the most frequent meeting place for these early settlers, Messrs. William Colton, T. Hewitt and James Turner set up a bullock wagon under an large old gum tree which served as a pulpit for the well known Rev, Simpson Newland.
The Devonshire Arms
The historical building situated adjacent left hand side of the Bowling Club is a long gable ended rectangular stone building with a projecting gable fronted section in the centre with verandas to each side. The scalloped barge boards are typical of the 1860’s period. The eastern end of the building is now a part of an adjoining shop. The original portion was built by William Colton (one of the founders of McLaren Vale) as a hostelry called the Devonshire Arms, Devonshire House and/or the Devonshire. Colton died on the day the inn was opened in 1849.
It had a ballroom with a specially sprung floor, now demolished. The trustees of Colton’s estate sold the Inn to Nicholas Browning in 1851. The building was used as a cordial factory, and later as a butcher shop from 1930’s – 1980’s.
Sylvan Park was built in 1858 and was the original home of Thomas Colton and later owned by the Pridmore family. The building is now a private house with the address of 49 Abbott Avenue as depicted below, with the chimney stacks prominent as on the original building.
It was then approached from Main Road through a long avenue of olive trees, a single sturdy wooden gate post stands at the entrance to the olive grove. This olive grove is now know as Gemmel Tassie reserve.
Situated in the former township of Bellevue, the Barn was formerly a coach stop used as an overnight stage for drivers and passengers on horse drawn coaches and teamsters with their bullock teams traveling the Adelaide to Victor Harbor Road. The Barn is currently a popular restaurant.
From 1857 – 1901 the Hotel McLaren was known as the Clifton Hotel. Thomas Hardy purchased the hotel in 1901 and added a gable wing to each end and renamed it the Bellevue Hotel. The hotel has been known as the Hotel McLaren since 1939.
At the rear of the hotel, but in the grounds of the Thomas Hardy Tintara winery stands a magnificent specimen of a Moreton Bay Fig tree registered on the National Trust register.
In 1852 a group of local farmers held a meeting at the Devonshire Arms, and decided to build a Mill in Bellevue, and a month later, the foundation stone having been laid, the company returned to the Devonshire Arms to celebrate the occasion. It (Mortlock`s Mill) functioned until the 1870’s and was purchased by Thomas Hardy who converted it to a winery that became the Mill cellars; parts of it are included in the present Hardy’s Tintara Winery.
Ellis Park pagoda is the former location of William Ingram’s butcher shop and residence in the 1850s.
Below is a comparison on how it looked and how Ellis Park looks today. Both pictures taken from the same position – i.e. corner of Main Road and Field Street.
About 3 kilometres south of the Devonshire Arms on the outskirts of the township towards Willunga was built a hostelry (1851) known simply as ‘Gumprs’, the name of its first owner. It continued to be known by this name until licensed by E.F. Jones as the Salopian in 1854. A Salopian is a person from Shropshire England, but the reason for the choice remains unknown. In 1860 it was licensed as the ‘Volunteers’ and kept that name for one year only.
Approximately 2 kilometres down Field Street (approximately where the Coles car park is now situated), a brewery was established on one acre of land and comprised of a number of buildings including a malt house, store, stabling and a four bedroom house with a detached kitchen. The Brewery was established about 1850 by Benjamin Pavy and his two eldest sons, James 28 & William 23, who had arrived from Wiltshire England that year on the ship the ‘Sir Francis Ridley’. Being from a family of Brewers and Millers they decided to make use of the barley from the surrounding district.
The property was generally known as Pavy’s Brewery and continued to brew ale until 1863 when operations stopped. The swampy ground next to the Brewery was known as Pavy’s Bog and until this day the hill is still locally known as Brewery Hill. Field Street was originally called ‘Government Road’.
McLaren Vale First Public school
McLaren Vale’s first public school was situated on Tatachilla Road. In the old picture, the school building is on the right, the cottage on the left is long gone. It is now home for the RSL which was established in 1919.
Tsong Gyiaou House (pronounced ‘Song Jow’)
Tsong Gyiaou house is in the grounds of the Southern Districts War Memorial Hospital just off Aldersey Street. It was built in 1862 on instruction of Mary Aldersey who had just come to McLaren Vale from China to live with her brother Richard Aldersey who had settled in South Australia in 1849. Mary Aldersey had left her home in England and spent time as the first Christian woman missionary in China. Because of her happy memories in a little village of four bridges in Ningpo China when she came to McLaren Vale she called the house Tsong Gyiaou.
When Mary died in 1868 the house was inherited by her two nieces, Miss Eliza & Miss Mary Ann Aldersey, who established a girls boarding school in Tsong Gyiaou. In 1899 the house & school was destroyed by a fire thus ending the school. The house was rebuilt exactly as it was and reopened in 1900. In the 1940s it became part of the local hospital.
Tsong Gyiaou Lodge
In the grounds of the Southern Districts War Memorial Hospital just off Aldersey Street on the drive to Tsong Gyiaou House is the lodge. In 1862 for a while this small building was opened as a school by Miss Ellen Chapple, for young boys and girls.
Old Adelaide Bank
Just 200 metres north of the Bowling Club is a building which was the Old Adelaide Bank. The building currently houses ‘RetireInvest’ and the adjoining building (was the Video Shop)is now a clothes store.
The Methodist Manse
The next building north of the Old Adelaide Bank is a beautifully restored building that was the Methodist Manse. This was beautifully restored by the present owners Vasselli’s Restaurant.
Then (approx. 1900) Now
The meaning of Manse is a residence of a minister or a large imposing residence.
The Old Saddlery
In 1880 John Ferris purchased a block of land on the main road of Gloucester and built a Saddlery. John Ferris had come to Gloucester in 1870 and had often spent weekends in the Blacksmiths run by John Morgan, during this time he became aware of the need for a saddlery service in the area. This building is currently a Bakery and is situated approximately 2kilometres south from the Bowling Club on Main Road towards Willunga.
In the early days, rapid clearing on the land soon made blacksmiths necessary. In Gloucester, John Morgan set up a blacksmiths and wheelwright. This was on the corner of Tatachilla and Main Road where the site of Reeves Garage was. This building is now Auto Parts and car repairers.
Corner of Main Road & Field Street
Streetscape looking North up Main Road.
The store on the corner of Field Street was owned by J.W.Wiltshire and originally George Field in the late 1800’s. Mr Field was a homeopathic chemist who was often referred to as the ‘Doctor’. He served as storekeeper, postmaster, chemist and Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages. He also carried out dental extractions. The store currently trades as a café called the ‘Vintage Bean’.
On the ‘then’ photo extreme right above (not shown on the ‘now’ picture) is Robert Nicol’s General Store which is not there now but was approximately where ‘Browse & Save’ carpark is.
Nicol’s General Store – Then Now
The First Chapel in Gloucester
Erected in the early 1840’s, the first chapel was very bare and barn-like and had a thatched roof. The building first served as a Union Chapel in the charge of Rev Isaac Prior who lived in the Devonshire and also taught in the Ellen Street school. When William Colton decided to open the Devonshire as a hostelry, Rev. Prior and family had to move and live in the chapel. Mrs Prior’s baby was born there.
Before long, because of the increasing congregations, it made a new church building imperative. The second church was opened in 1862. In 1861, during work on the steeply pitched roof, one of the builder’s sons was gravely injured when he is said to have fallen off. It is believed that there is some connection between this incident and a tombstone in the graveyard for Henry Edwin Scotcher.
The church is currently know as the ‘Singing Gallery’ and hosts many music & entertainment events.
The Old Storage Cellar
Adjacent to the Bowling Club on the north side can be seen the last remnants of the Southern Vales Co-operative Winery. The stone building was constructed into the hillside as a storage cellar in 1901. It replaced an earlier cellar of wattle slabs from the first winery on this site, ‘The Wattles’ constructed by Horace Pridmore around 1896.
Penfolds Wines bought the winery from Cyril Pridmore in 1910, and expanded the plant and buildings, which functioned until 1961. In 1965 the winery was sold and re-opened as the The Southern Vales Co-operative Winery Ltd. They ran the winery until 1993, when it was sold to Tatachilla, who re-opened the winery in 1995. The winery was owned by Tinlins until sold and developed for housing in 2012. The Old Storage Cellar is now badly in need of restoration.
I would like to thank the following for contributions to this web page.
- Some selected references from ‘The Rich Valley’ by Adele Pridmore.
- Acknowledgement is made to the State Library of South Australia for the following pictures on this page. The Barn B39125. Belle Vue Hotel B37225. Butcher Shop B13919. Salopian Inn B115524. 1st Public School B43428. Tsong Gyiaou School D4645/2. Morgan Blacksmiths B11525. Nicol’s Store B13920. Congregational Church B21042.
I am sure that there is more pictures / information / documentation out there. If you have access to any material that you would like to share on this web page please contact me. John Bates 8184 9140.
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